REVIEW: Detaining Justice Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn

PUBLISHED: 14:24 18 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

Three star rating Detaining Justice is the last in the Tricycle s Not Black and White Season, a look at British society today from the perspective of black writers, and is, inevitably, politically charged. Bo

Detaining Justice

Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn

Three star rating

Detaining Justice is the last in the Tricycle's Not Black and White Season, a look at British society today from the perspective of black writers, and is, inevitably, politically charged. Bola Agbaje, who wrote the Royal Court's Gone Too Far, has chosen to address the immigration issue (Roy Williams looked at prisons, Kwame Kwei-Armah at politics) and uses the plight of handily named illegal immigrant Justice, detained and awaiting trial, to explore this thorny topic.

Unfortunately, Agbaje has undercut her impulsive writing style by pushing the politics too hard; sometimes one can look at an issue too directly. Almost gone is the impetuous spark of Abaje's Royal Court characters: these brittle roles feel like mouthpieces for debates on human rights, loyalties and compromise and are a touch underwritten and overburdened. Karl Collins brings a nobility to every part he plays but his hot-shot lawyer, who grudgingly takes on Justice's case, is stiff and preachy.

The moments outside the play proper are the liveliest. The best scenes involve a trio of cleaners with immigration issues of their own and are funny, natural and unassumingly informative. Kobna Holdbrook and Cecilia Noble burst out of the blocks as husband and wife Abeni and Pra and their scenes, in which they squabble about how to beat the immigration system, blaze with passion and wit. ("I will not fight you - I will beat you!")

But director Indu Rubasingham lets this cleaner couple run riot and the surrounding, heavier scenes, pale in comparison. One longs for the cleaners to return on-stage - to lighten the load - and gradually loses interest in the principle roles and their stories.

Agbaje is a unique talent but she needs to find a play that better suits her voice - and, although she is excellent at writing fizzing arguments, perhaps they should not shout quite so loudly next time.

Until December 19.

Miriam Gillinson


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